Araguz booking raises questions about Harris County jail’s treatment of transgender inmates

Judge Vanessa Valasquez

Judge Vanessa Valasquez

According to the Houston Chronicle, Nikki Araguz has been booked into the Harris County Jain after arriving 40 minutes late for a scheduled court appearance on Friday. The court date was to allow Araguz to plead guilty to charges that she stole a watch from an acquaintance last year. Under the proposed plea bargain Araguz would have paid $2,600 in restitution and served 15 days in county jail. State District Judge Vanessa Velasquez, a Republican first appointed to the bench by Gov. Rick Perry, responded to Araguz’ apologies for her tardiness with “It’s too late for sorry,” ordering bailiffs to escort her to a hold cell next to the courtroom.

Araguz is the widow of firefighter Capt. Thomas Araguz who died in the line of duty last year. Capt. Araguz’s ex-wife and mother have sued to claim the portion of his survivor’s benefits reserved for the spouses of slain firefighters, claiming that since Nikki Araguz was identified as male at birth the marriage was invalid under Texas’ laws prohibiting the recognition of same-sex marriage. Mrs. Araguz’s birth certificate identifies her as female, as does her state issued identification.

Araguz’s booking has raised questions about the Harris County’s treatment of transgender detainees. The Sheriff Department’s Public Information Inquiry System listed Araguz using her male birth name on Friday. They have since removed the name from the site’s searchable database but have retained the record, listing it under the department’s “special person number” (SPN) filing system. The SPN record includes Araguz’s birth name. The Sheriff’s office has not returned calls from Houstini asking why the department is not using Araguz’s legal name and if this is common practice.

According to a friend who has visited Araguz at the jail her identity bracelet correctly identifies her gender as “F” – but reflects Araguz’s birth name, not her legal name. Araguz is segregated from the general jail population, but can receive visitors during regular visiting hours.

Araguz will remain in the Harris County Jail until Jan 25 when she is scheduled to appear again before Judge Velasquez.

—  admin

Clay Aiken at Verizon Theatre last night


Last night we ventured out to the Clay Aiken show at Verizon Theatre. To be honest, I am not a big fan of his music, but I’m certainly a fan of him. We had a good interview for this piece in this week’s issue which started endearing me to him, but when he turned on the ‘tude last night and chatted up his elder audience, he had all the makings of a sassy queen. Several precious moments were to be had as he threw people under the bus, made fun of top 40 radio and took delight in the lack of men in the audience — or at least had fun with it when he cited only six men in the front rows.

“Did she drag you here?” he would ask. Pretty great.

My apologies to any people behind me as I tweeted the night away, but hey, I wasn’t holding my phone up videoing the guy. Here are my tweet-thoughts from the evening and current thoughts (in bold) the day after (after the jump) along with my colleague’s take on the evening.

—  Rich Lopez

BREAKING: Arkansas school board member Clint McCance apologizes, says he’ll resign

Clint McCance, the school board member from Midland, Ark., who recently encouraged gays to kill themselves on his Facebook page, said Thursday night on CNN that he plans to resign his seat:

“I’m sorry I’ve hurt people with my comments,” McCance told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “I’m sorry I made those ignorant comments and hurt people on a broad spectrum. …

“I would never support suicide for any kids,” McCance said. “I don’t support bullying of any kids.”

“The words I used were unfortunate … but they can’t be taken back,” he said. “All I can do now is extend my apologies for my poor speech.”

Read the full story by going here.

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese issued the following statement:

“Clint McCance’s decision to resign from the school board is a step forward for the community he represents. We are hopeful the wounds that were inflicted will soon be healed. What remains troubling is that Mr. McCance focused his regret on particular word choices not the animus behind those words. We hope he will take this time to reflect not only on the language he used but on what he can do to make the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning young people better.”

—  John Wright